Quarantine measures and social distancing, of some form, are in place for a large proportion of the world’s population. This is continually changing the way people work, live, and shop in the UK. For warehouse workers, COVID-19 continues to impact their working situation significantly.
Whereas many office roles can be performed 100% at home, the same is not true for warehouse workers. COVID-19 makes it difficult to imagine what the new normal warehouse working conditions will look like, as they struggle to cope with the increase in online shopping and panic buying as local and national lockdowns are introduced.
For warehouse workers, COVID-19 is a rollercoaster that causes fluctuations in demand. From lockdowns and panic buying in the spring to an easing of restrictions through the summer, the effects on warehouse employees are profound.
During the summer, many warehouses became storage units holding stock retailers in non-food and pharmaceutical sectors were unable to sell. We also witnessed new stock lines coming in as manufacturers switched to producing hand sanitiser and face masks.
Once again, we are entering a period of stricter measures as autumn progresses to winter. Online shopping and e-commerce are back on the increase, and retailers who had a small or no online store are now taking on extra space as their businesses pivot into e-commerce.
Sending pallets of goods out to shops is likely to decrease, and direct-to-consumer will be on the up. For warehouse workers, COVID-19 adds extra strain as single goods are picked to go straight to the customer’s home. This will also mean handling returns, checking and approving them as fit for resale, and quarantining goods through a safety period.
Distribution hubs will undoubtedly be busier as smaller online retailers demand new logistics space. This might be in existing warehouses that serve multiple clients or through new sole-proprietor warehouses, boosting the number of available jobs for warehouse workers. COVID-19 is already growing job numbers, and according to LinkedIn, these roles were within the top five applied for jobs in the UK earlier this year.
COVID-19 Safe Working Conditions
For warehouse workers, COVID-19 adds stress and anxiety with a need for safer working conditions. It is a lot for distribution hubs to cope with, managing staff illnesses, social distancing, and an increasing headcount.
There are certain things to be aware of if you are in a team of warehouse workers. COVID-19 spreads person-to-person when you come in close contact with co-workers, customers, and truck drivers. It also spreads through frequently touched surfaces such as door handles, equipment, and merchandise.
Warehouse managers and warehouse workers COVID-safety guidelines:
- Maintain social distancing of two metres where possible
- Increased surface cleaning and handwashing
- Wear warehouse PPE such as face masks or visors
- Reduce your use of shared equipment
- Introduce and follow one-way systems
- Introduce screens to separate close workers
- Work with a partner or in a small fixed team
- Zone working spaces
- Restrict access to shared spaces
- Stagger arrival, departure, and break times
- Introduce more shifts to allow more staff to return to work
Warehouse workers, COVID-19 PPE guidelines:
- Wear your face mask – you can have and spread the virus unknowingly
- Do not touch your nose, mouth, or eyes when taking off your mask
- Do not touch your mask while you are wearing it
- Wash your mask after each use
- Wash your hands before putting on and after removing your mask
- Clean your uniform after every use or use a workwear rental & laundry service.
You should stay at home if you are sick and have any symptoms that could be coronavirus to ensure you do not infect other warehouse workers. COVID is infectious, so do not return to work until your healthcare provider says it is safe for you to do so. Finally, inform your supervisor if you feel well, but someone you are in close contact with has been diagnosed with the virus.